Ex-boss reveals how he tempted Distin and Campbell to Pompey

Lassana Diarra with Harry Redknapp after the midfielder signed for Pompey in January 2008. Picture: Robin Jones

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Harry Redknapp revealed how he recruited the defensive backbone behind Pompey’s 2008 FA Cup triumph.

Sol Campbell was the England international who walked out on Arsenal after scoring against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.

Sylvain Distin, Sulley Muntari and Sol Campbell celebrate Pompey's FA Cup semi-final win over West Brom in 2008.  Picture: Will Caddy

Sylvain Distin, Sulley Muntari and Sol Campbell celebrate Pompey's FA Cup semi-final win over West Brom in 2008. Picture: Will Caddy

Sylvain Distin was Manchester City’s captain and a former player of the season seeking a fresh challenge at the end of his contract.

They were matched at Fratton Park ahead of the 2007-08 campaign as Redknapp’s central-defensive unit.

And, for two seasons, they were a magnificent presence.

Redknapp said: ‘Sylvain was under contract at Manchester City but I went to meet him in a Manchester hotel.

I think he had fallen out of love with it because he’d had such a bad time – and that was it really

Harry Redknapp

‘As we were playing Manchester United the following day, it seemed ideal, but had to be all hush, hush.

‘After all, I shouldn’t have been talking to him.

‘So we booked a room at this hotel, with Peter Storrie and his agent also there, discussing a move as he was going to be a free agent at the end of that season.

‘Suddenly a fire alarm went off and kept going and going, people were banging on the doors so we all had to rush down the fire escape to leave the hotel.

‘We got outside and there must have been 600 people who had been evacuated – and there we were supposed to keep this meeting with Sylvain a secret!

‘How it never came out, I’ll never know. We would have been bang in trouble.’

As for Campbell, a player of his calibre represented a Pompey shock signing in the eyes of football.

Redknapp added: ‘Sol had walked out on Arsenal and I thought I’d take a chance so rang him up and asked if we could meet, which he agreed.

‘He was on so much money at Arsenal and just walked away from his contract, packed up. I told him we couldn’t pay that sort of money but come down here, you’ll love it, it’s a great crowd and I’ll make you captain – he went for it.

‘Sol would have had other offers but fancied getting out the way of it. He had seen the Fratton Park atmosphere before, I told him he would enjoy his football again.

‘I think he had fallen out of love with it because he’d had such a bad time – and that was it really.

‘I was relying on Sacha (Gaydamak) all the time to do the deal, nobody did any deal without asking him.

‘When I mentioned Sol Campbell he was right up for it. What a player.’

Our interview with Harry Redknapp is part of our build-up to the 10th anniversary of Pompey’s FA Cup triumph.

Keep checking portsmouth.co.uk throughout the week to read more stories, while there will be a 16-page supplement in Thursday’s News.